Ten men scrums - How Japan plan to counter the Boks' pack
Japan are well used to punching above their weight.
Jamie Joseph's side have been the story of the tournament so far. Seeded third in Pool A, they became the first side in tournament history to top their pool from that position and dispatched of both Ireland and Scotland en route. Their brand of rugby has been exciting, free-flowing and a joy to watch. They're most people's second team in the tournament at this point, and they're already further in the tournament than any other team in their nation's history.
They face a sterner challenge this weekend than anything they've come up against yet. Not only are they facing Rassie Erasmus' South Africa side, but there are two important asterisks to that fixture; they're not coming in under the radar any more, and the Springboks are gunning for revenge.
No one needs reminding of the Miracle of Brighton four years ago, but you get the feeling that that defeat has been festering and growing in South African rugby ever since. They're dying to set the record straight, and they're going to play to their strengths in order to do so.
Erasmus' bench shows just that. He's gone with a 6/2 split between forwards and backs in the replacements, and all his big hitters have returned. Cheslin Kolbe is the only real outlier in the team of mammoth ball-carriers.
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 17, 2019
While the Japanese scrum has stood up well so far, and even dominated for periods against Ireland and Samoa in particular, they face a Springbok pack with a combined weight of 909kg, while the Brave Blossoms clock in at 868 kilos. But, replacement hooker Takuya Kitade revealed just how they've been planning on getting around it;
"They tend to have a bigger pack compared to us so, to push our team even harder than during games, the replacements go with 10 against the team's eight".
They've loaded their human scrum machine with two extra bodies in preparation for the Boks. They're not messing around.
Speaking on The JOEpan Rugby Show this week, former Munster and Ireland hooker and one-time forwards coach at the southern province Jerry Flannery explained that it's not unheard of;
"If you don't have players of the size of the Springboks in your squad, well then how do you replicate that kind of mass that you're going to train against? Coaches will often bring in, they might bring in 10 players that if you're practising your maul and you're going to maul against bigger men you might let the opposition have more players in the maul, more players in the scrum just to try and replicate that this is just how much extra mass that the opposition have on us. So it's not as big a shock then when the team goes to play against them in the game."
If Japan manage the Springbok's power in the pack, they might just have a chance of continuing the fairytale this Sunday.
On Episode 8 of The JOEpan Rugby Show, Rob O'Hanrahan and Jerry Flannery take a look ahead to the Rugby World Cup Quarter Finals; Japan v South Africa and France v Wales. WATCH at the link below: